Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that's why it's so essential to preserving individual freedom.”     Milton Friedman

January 18, 2009

FedGov Can’t Even Plan A DTV Switch Given 2 Years!

by Brad Warbiany

Oh, this is rich:

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced legislation that would postpone the digital transition by almost four months. “I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition,” Mr. Rockefeller said in a statement.

Congress began seriously considering delaying the county’s transition to digital television — now set for Feb. 17 — after the Commerce Department reported last week that it was running short on funds for a government coupon program to defray costs for consumers who will lose their TV signals after the switch.

How long have they been advertising this switch? How long have they had to plan, to forecast expected cost, and to put enough money in the budget to get these coupons out the door?

And they can’t do it. Yeah, these are the yokels I want in charge of my family’s healthcare!

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4 Comments

  1. Actually, when initially proposed, the switch was to occur in 1998.

    Then it was delayed until 2006, then 2008, now 2009.

    At this point I think they’re waiting for everyone without an HDTV to die or something.

    In reality, I don’t think the switch is going to be put off any meaningful length of time:

    1. Too many companies have spent too much money getting ready for it this time.

    2. HD broadcasts are MAKING them more money than non-hd

    3. Digital is cheaper to work with by far once the transition costs are paid (and they are)

    4. The broadcasters can fit much more paying data down the pipe with digital transition; and they can’t do that if they maintain analog.

    5. Keeping both going simultaneously is too expensive.

    This is just more congressional posturing and pandering.

    Comment by Chris Byrne — January 18, 2009 @ 11:44 am
  2. Wow, those all sound like rational market-driven reasons for companies to change technology. Maybe a nationwide mandate was less “necessary” than was presented. Maybe the change to HD is more appropriately tied to when the providers can offer it in the face of growing market demand.

    I find it fascinating that cell phone network providers can change and upgrade technology at a dizzying pace without aid of any nationwide mandates. They have only the flimsy motivation of millions of consumers willing to pay big money for the new technology.

    Comment by Akston — January 18, 2009 @ 10:14 pm
  3. @Akston,

    The wireless market charges 20 cents per text message, and continues to raise basic cell phone rates. Broadcast TV isn’t paid for by the consumer (not directly anyway), but by ads.

    There’s no need to change when so many broadcast networks get money through ads, emergency broadcasting stipends, and paying subscribers.

    Comment by Paul — January 19, 2009 @ 12:38 am
  4. While most people I know pay far less than 20 cents per text message, I do take your point.

    My point about the broadcast industry is that I can imagine scenarios where a network could entice more viewers (and hence more sponsors) by touting a presentation in HD. Think sports. I don’t know which percentages of a given station’s budget are generally consumed by which costs, but I find it easy to believe that there are situations where the potential competitive advantage of broadcasting in HD would defray the cost of the transition. To broadcast at all requires a pretty large capital outlay.

    My point is simply that if a technology can increase the bottom line in a competitive market, then the players in that market will seek it out without federal mandate. If it can’t, I don’t agree that it’s the proper function of the federal government to pick and mandate that technology.

    Comment by Akston — January 19, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

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